2022 09 12

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library receives the Design Citation of Merit at the Docomomo Modernism in America Awards

12.09.2022 - Events, Project updates

Docomomo US announced today the twelve recipients of the 2022 Modernism in America Awards. These projects highlight the best in preservation practice by today’s architects, designers, preservation professionals and advocates. This year’s awards recognize preservation efforts ranging from the transformation of large-scale projects into beacons of sustainability to modest home revitalizations, many of which have been years, or even decades, in the making. The results are a testament to the dedication and foresight of those who recognize the value of preserving our modern heritage for everyone.

The jury awards a Civic/Institutional Design Citation of Merit for the restoration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, the only library designed by the pioneering architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Located in the heart of the downtown area, this ambitious restoration initiative began six years ago with a $500 million investment from local tax dollars to revitalize more than twenty neighbourhood libraries across DC, chief among them Mies’ landmark structure, which was suffering from 45 years of deferred maintenance.

The rigorous process engaged the public, state and federal agencies, architect Jack Bowman of the original design team, Charles Cassell who led the campaign to name the library after Dr. King, and more.  Community feedback emphasized the importance of creating an inclusive, optimistic, and joyful space that honoured Dr. King as a champion of DC Home Rule and provided programming that reflected his passions.

The restoration respects the powerful simplicity of Mies’ distinctive rectilinear black glass-and-steel aesthetic exterior while applying a complementary and humanizing design idiom on the interior. The library now offers almost 100,000 additional sq. ft. of public space, including co-working spaces, a community service zone, exhibition space, an auditorium, maker space, café, and a rooftop garden.

Jury member Glenn LaRue Smith, a D.C. resident, described his experience of walking up to the building over the past 20 years as “oppressive and uninviting,” but now “it is vastly improved and has a much more user-friendly entry while its iconic Miesian imagery has been preserved. The stairs on either side of the main entry make it a more civic space and increase the ability to circulate through the building without searching for elevators at the back of the building. The community stuck to their guns to ensure the building was saved and it is a big feather in the cap for D.C. and the region.”

The 2022 Modernism in America Awards will be presented in-person on Thursday, November 3 at the Design Within Reach Third Avenue Showroom in New York City.

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